The other day my husband and I got into an argument. We were both getting defensive. When he would point out some unproductive action I had taken that had led to the issue at hand, I would try to explain why I had taken the action (i.e. trying to be right). When I did this, he thought I was blaming him for the whole negative situation.
We were talking over each other, trying to be right and the whole thing was turning into an emotionally charged freight train to nowhere.
I couldn’t hear what he was really saying because I was too busy dreaming up my next comeback or looking to point out some fault in his argument.
Giving Up the Fight
At some point, I lost steam. Realizing that the whole “conversation” was making the problem worse, I stopped. I just sat there, initially because I was getting tired of repeating myself. I was also getting tired of hearing my husband repeat himself. Obviously, neither of us felt heard.
In that space of silence, my husband went past the cycle we were locked in and started to speak more insightfully and calmly.
I sat and listened. He spoke some more.
At first I wanted to jump in and defend myself again but knew we had already wasted too much time doing that.
So I sat and listened.
Without me getting defensive and trying to be right, he had the space to share more of his feelings.
And by not trying to think of the next thing I was going to say, my mind had the space to process and understand what he was saying. And what he was saying had a lot of validity.
I was able to see more clearly how much I had been contributing to the issue that we were arguing about.
As he spoke and I listened, the tension dissipated and we were able to connect. My mind shifted from defending my story to seeing the issue in a whole new light. I moved from being closed off to opening up and thinking about how I could make the situation better.
I walked away from our discussion thinking of ways I could do things differently to create the better situation I was looking for.
By shutting up and listening, I did not walk away feeling righteous and mad at my husband – a situation that would have led to building anger and resentment for both of us.
We both felt better.
Listen to the Whispers
When we get into arguments, it’s our monkey mind and ego that drives our need to defend, conquer, control and win.
But when we tell our monkey mind where to go for a moment and create a bit of space, a little silence, we can begin to hear the whispers of our True Self guiding us in the right direction.
Give the Other Person a Gift
So the next time you’re in an argument and you feel the need to get in the last word, make your point known or just let them have it – don’t. The other person isn’t really listening anyway. And you’re not listening to them.
It won’t help anything. You won’t feel better in the long run.
Instead, shut up.
No matter what the other person says – stay silent.
When there’s a pregnant pause – stay silent. This is the other person’s opportunity to go beyond their own defensiveness and reveal a bit of themselves. Allow them to do this. Give them this gift.
While you’re silent, ask yourself why you’re arguing in the first place. Ask yourself if being defensive and argumentative is helping the core problem or moving you toward where you want to be. Probably not. It’s probably making the whole situation worse.
Let the other person speak as long as they need to and LISTEN. When it’s obvious that they have nothing left to say, THANK THEM for sharing whatever they shared with you. Thank them for their thoughts and opinions, even if you don’t agree with them.
Then rephrase their most important points back to them so they feel like you really heard them. Again, you don’t have to agree, you’re simply confirming that you received their message correctly.
From that point, unless the other person asks you for your thoughts, stay silent.
Go and think about how your actions contributed to the situation that created the argument. It may be hard to find but without taking personal responsibility for your part, there will never be a resolution.
When thinking about how you contributed, consider the saying: You get what you give. What have you been giving (or not giving)? If you don’t feel loved, how much love have you been giving? Don’t play the game of, “I’ll give the other person what they want after they give me what I want.” The other person won’t give first and you’ll continue to be angry and resentful.
In order to get what you want, give the other person what they want first with no expectations. Just do it because you want to.
And don’t make it so hard for the other person to give you what you want. Don’t insist that it has to look and feel a certain way. You’ll almost always be disappointed.
Expressing your disappointment to the person who is giving to you will reinforce why they shouldn’t try to give to you. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Enjoy and appreciate whatever it is that they give in whatever way they give it.
Put yourself in their shoes. How would it feel to be shot down every time you tried to help? Would you keep trying?
A New Beginning
The next time you’re in an argument, give yourself and the other person the gift of silence and truly listen.
Take responsibility for your contribution to the situation.
When you learn to bite your tongue and truly listen to the other person, your arguments will stop repeating themselves. You will have taken the first step toward changing what had seemed like a hopeless loop.
When you repeat the same argument over and over, you’re not really arguing about the topic at hand. You’re venting your frustration over not being heard, understood and appreciated.
You get what you give. Start changing what you give.